Miami Marlins 2021 Season Previewby Andersen Pickard March 31, 2021 0 comments
The Miami Marlins are one of baseball’s most exciting teams. Mired in misery for nine years (.431 winning percentage from 2011 to 2019; playoff drought since 2003), the 2020 Marlins weren’t expected to do much. The team had different plans, though. They finished 31-29, posting their first winning record since 2009. They snuck into the postseason as a Wild Card team, snapping a 16-year skid. The Marlins swept the Chicago Cubs in the opening round before being swept by the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS.
Miami suffered minimal loss this offseason, with only three players heading elsewhere on big-league deals. Reliever Ryne Stanek left for Houston while starter Jose Ureña found his way to Detroit.
As for trades, Miami struck a deal that sent starter Jordan Yamamoto to the New York Mets. They acquired fellow pitchers Adam Cimber from the Cleveland Indians, John Curtiss from the Tampa Bay Rays, and Dylan Floro from the Los Angeles Dodgers. Meanwhile, they flipped James Hoyt to the Los Angeles Angels in late March. Finally, Miami acquired right-hander Zach Pop from the Arizona Diamondbacks after they made him their Rule 5 draft selection (from Baltimore).
While busy on the trade market, the Marlins didn’t make too many waves in free agency. Their only big-league signings include outfielder Adam Duvall and relievers Anthony Bass and Ross Detwiler. Among them, Bass’s two-year deal is the only pact lasting more than one season.
Following a promising 2020 and a plethora of offseason moves, Marlins fans have reason to be optimistic for the upcoming season.
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Behind the dish, Alfaro is a former Philadelphia Phillies catcher who was sent to Maimi in the J.T. Realmuto trade. Through two years with the Marlins, he owns a solid .256/.306/.410 line with 73 RBI and 21 home runs. His biggest offensive weakness is vision; Alfaro has 26 walks and 190 strikeouts over those two campaigns. His 2019 strikeout rate finished in the bottom two percent while his walk rate was bottom eight. He could be on a short leash after he missed time last season due to an injury and COVID-19 before being benched for Chad Wallach in the postseason.
Aguilar is a former All-Star who bounced back to solid form after a quiet year in 2020. Garrett Cooper also plays first base and outfield, and Miami will surely look to incorporate his bat into the lineup quite frequently. At second base, Jazz Chisholm debuted last year, struggling over the course of 21 games. He had just nine hits over 56 at-bats, adding two home runs, six RBI, five walks, and 19 strikeouts.
Shortstop is a position of strength for the Marlins, as Miguel Rojas has handled the position exceptionally well. While he doesn’t hit for power, he does get on base and is a valuable member of the Marlins’ infield and lineup. Over the past two seasons combined, he owns a .288/.344/.403 slash line with 48 walks and just 80 strikeouts. Finally, Anderson has also fulfilled expectations at the hot corner. He is a young, talented player who both hits and fields well. Look for Anderson to have a big impact in a full 162-game season.
From an offensive perspective, Dickerson is among baseball’s most underrated outfielders. Over eight years in the majors, he has hit above .300 in half of them. He owns a career .284/.327/.497 slash line with one All-Star appearance and one Gold Glove award under his belt. Dickerson did struggle to find his footing in the shortened 2020 campaign, slashing .258/.311/.402 with 17 RBI, 15 walks, and 35 strikeouts. Despite these numbers, there is clear optimism that Dickerson can return to his pre-2020 form and provide frequent offensive output.
Shifting over to center field, Marte was acquired from Arizona last trade deadline. The former All-Star and two-time Gold Glove award winner has long been a staple in National League outfields, boasting success over eight years in Pittsburgh and half a season each in Arizona and Miami.
Finally, Duvall, too, is a former All-Star. He has spent all seven big-league seasons in the National League, including the last two-and-a-half in Atlanta. Duvall isn’t a contact hitter (the best batting average of his career is .267) but rather provides power. Over the past two years, he is averaging one home run every 3.78 games. Duvall could lose playing time to Cooper, who provides stability at first base or corner outfield.
Starting Rotation Projections
The Marlins will open the year with a four-man rotation after pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez was sent to the minors. He’ll likely be up later in the year, but this is what the rotation will look like to start the year. Alcantara has been solid for Miami, owning a 3.69 ERA and one All-Star appearance over the past three years. Meanwhile, Hernandez and Rogers were solid last year, combining for seven wins over 17 starts. They both finished with ERAs in the low- or mid-3.00s. Rogers, on the other hand, struggled, allowing 19 earned runs over 28 innings. He went 1-2 over seven starts last year after just five games at Double-A and none at Triple-A. However, he did impress with a high strikeout count this spring.
Miami’s bullpen features plenty of new names. Bass was signed as a free agent out of Toronto and Detwiler inked a deal after spending two years with the Chicago White Sox. Floro, Curtiss, Cimber, and Pop were all acquired via trade; Campbell was a Rule 5 addition.
Bass is penciled in as the closer while Garcia and Floro will be reliable options in tight, high-leverage scenarios. Bleier, Curtiss, Cimber, and Detwiler all have big-league experience and can provide value in the middle innings. Pop and Campbell are both Rule 5 picks and Miami would presumably like to keep at least one (preferably both) on the squad.
Players to Watch For
Miami’s talented pitching prospect will open the year in the minors after his start to Spring Training was delayed. He debuted last year, going 3-2 with a 3.46 ERA over seven starts last year. Sanchez allowed just one earned run over eight innings of spring work this year and could make a quick return to the majors if he continues to pitch strong.
Pop was originally drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers before being traded to the Baltimore Orioles in the Manny Machado trade. When he last pitched in 2019, Pop boasted a strong fastball that sat mid-90s and maxed out at 100 mph. However, he underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2019 and has not pitched in the majors since. Of course, it seems he has impressed enough in his return to the mound, as evidenced by his selection to the Opening Day roster.
Chisholm struggled offensively last year and didn’t exactly dominate this spring, either. However, he has seemingly won the second base job after Isan Diaz, who opted out of last season, also struggled. Miami views Chisholm as their shortstop of the future. With Miguel Rojas set to hit free agency next offseason, all eyes will be on Chisholm in order to evaluate whether or not he can take on the everyday shortstop duties for many years to come.
The Marlins are going to come quite close to the postseason once again, posting an even better winning percentage than last year. But they’ll come up just shy, finishing behind the Mets and Braves in the National League East. Despite this, the season can be considered a success if Sanchez, Pop, Chisholm, and other young players prove they can be long-term staples of the Miami franchise.
Record: 85-77 (third place in NL East)
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